Friday Night Lights (Youth Ministry)

Friday Night Lights is the best show on television.

I find myself saying this after every episode.

I know I’m late to the party on this. The show is done after five seasons. It never reached a substantial viewership. They did some weird thing the last season where they played it on DirectTv in the fall and re-ran it on network television in the spring. They considered canceling it virtually every season, and yet it received rave reviews from important critics.

And now, I’m watching it on Netflix and am only 10 episodes into season 1.

I am totally hooked. Enthralled. Captivated. Why?

1. FNL represents this youth generation better than any show I’ve ever seen.

Granted, I haven’t seen EVERY television show, but I do work as a youth pastor. This show gets the current 12-22 year old generation. The writers beautifully portrait the struggles this generation faces around identity, value, sexuality, relationships, and meaning. A few of the episodes have  left me in tears because I see these struggles play out in the youth I get to guide and lead. The characters, the stories, the movement is touching a deep nerve in my own soul I carry for those I lead.

2. FNL is real and broken.

One of my favorite youth ministry authors is Andrew Root. His book, Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry, was perhaps one of the greatest catalysts to spark my calling to youth ministry. FNL, like Root, understands that life revolves (inevitably) around brokenness and pain and struggle. Life and faith do not simply work out in a clean A,B,C equation (If I do this, then God will do X). Instead, life can be pretty dang crappy. Parents divorce. Friends backstab. Substances take hold. Tragedies occur. Oftentimes, these things just happen.

And frankly, we need a theology, a belief, a faith that God is still present amid the brokenness and pain. We need a theology that God is still actively loving and showing grace despite the pain. FNL paints this in episode after episode. Not explicitly. This isn’t a show about faith. But it is a show about pain and those tiny moments of redemption only God can orchestrate.

3. FNL is better than any sermon.

I’ve been moved by art lately. I don’t know where this is coming from. I haven’t cared that much about beautiful movies or powerful songs. Until now. Art and story have been sparking something of a unique feeling in me. It’s a feeling of an overwhelming swell you can’t explain.

This is nothing against any pastor or teacher (me included). But sermons don’t feel like art most of the time. Sermons tend to be: God did this. You do this. Life will play out like this. There is very little room for mystery and complexity.

But FNL is mysterious and complex and paints life in a way that actually represents the mystery and compexity of life. I’m asking myself: How can I teach and preach like this show? What is it that is striking a chord deep inside and how can I teach that way?

4. FNL reminds me of me.

Finally, on a personal note, I grew up in a small town where sports were everything. It was a small town in Washington built around the timber industry. I see the same questions I had asked by the characters living in this town in Texas. I see the same struggles with loving being a “hero” but also knowing there was more to life. I see the same pains and struggles they can’t always identify.

This show is incredible. For reasons I can’t explain simply in a blog post.

Go watch it.
Especially if you have Netflix.

FNL will teach you more about this generation more than any other show, book, or movie I’ve ever seen.

Bold statement? Let me know what you think.

2 thoughts on “Friday Night Lights (Youth Ministry)

  1. Hi John, Really interesting stuff here. I just finished the series yesterday and happened to stumble upon your blog while reading through some youth ministry posts. I was totally hooked on the show throughout. I agree with much of what you said about it. It certainly does serve as a powerful reminder of the brokenness that exists in the world of teenagers. It’s also a reminder that often times for teenagers different arenas of life cross over and affect each other in significant ways. While aspects of the show seem a bit overstated (or maybe I’m just cynical), I left many of the episodes with a renewed appreciation for some of the struggles and circumstances that shape the teenagers in my church. Also, I think you raise some incredibly important questions in your third point. There is something in FNL that moves us emotionally while at the same time leaving us to ponder all sorts of questions, and in that sense it functions in the way that a great sermon should. Thanks for this post, I really enjoyed it and it raises some great questions!

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